I ended the last year and started the new year by taking some digital downtime to participate in a 10-day Vipassana meditation course. Vipassana encourages students to disconnect, focus on their breathing and their body, and to generally live in the moment. I will not go into detail about the meditation itself. If curious please check out Celestine Chua’s post. That post introduced me to Vipassana more than a year ago so thanks Celestine!
Noble silence and complete disconnection
The meditation retreat was located in the rural England, in a remote area near Hereford. Two very interesting details about the retreat are:
- Complete disconnection. There was no Internet, no computers, no TV and no radio. If you had a mobile phone, books, magazines, or a notebook and pen with you, it was all locked up until the end of the course.
- Noble silence. Every student had to practice the noble silence which meant that you couldn’t communicate with anyone at the course. No talking, no hand signals, no physical contact – nothing at all.
These two points meant the total disconnection from the “distractions” of the mind that we spend most of our time on in our daily lives:
- No communication with other people
- No Internet surfing
- No writing
- No reading
- No consuming media
You are left all alone with your mind and the noise in your head!
Reflections and forward planning
Spending 10 days being disconnected, I have found that having no distractions relieves stress and fosters creativity. When you find yourself in a situation without any of the usual distractions, your mind tends to wander. You will notice that it looks back and ahead, reflects and plans forward. It concentrates on these areas:
- Past experiences
- Future hopes and expectations
- Good times
- Bad times
All this thinking is great because it gives a clear image of where you have been, what you have achieved, where you are now and where you want to be in the short-term or long-term future. Another great thing by taking the digital downtime is that you reflect on the differences between the day without distractions and a normal day in your life.
From content consumer to producer
I found that I didn’t miss activities I spent quiet a bit of time on in my daily life. In a normal week I spend hours doing some activities, but while being disconnected I found that my life was no different with or without them. When I got back, I spent some time optimizing my daily schedule.
I realized that my Google Reader had gotten so cluttered with different sites I subscribed to over the years. It took me quiet some time to go through the feed daily. The result was that I became a content consumer and stopped being a content producer. The action I took was that I unsubscribed from some feeds that did not bring anything valuable to my life. This will save me hours every week, which I now can put into writing posts or working on some other projects that will bring me closer to the place where I want to be.
This was just one example of what I figured out while being disconnected and how that will shape my future work.
Your turn to take action
Reading about people taking actions and getting closer to their goals is inspirational and very good, but it is nothing unless the advice and experiencing it yourself. Only by taking action you will be able to get the benefits in your life and only that will get you closer to your future goals. Consider doing this:
- Disconnect for a few days (my 10 days is a bit extreme but a weekend sounds very manageable to most)
- No Internet, no phone, no TV, no reading material, no contact with people… nothing except you and your mind!
- Just relax and let your mind wander
- Think about your current situation
- How did you get where you are? What worked well? What can be improved?
- Think about where you want to be in the near or in the long term future
- Think about which steps you will have to take to get there
- Start acting on the steps
Bound to become more focused and more successful
Internet is a great place that gave all of us many opportunities to realize our dreams but Internet is also a place where you can easily waste your precious time on mindless surfing, reading, chatting, watching and playing. It is very important to be able to disconnect from time to time, relax and think about your situation, your dreams and the actions you will have to take to reach those dreams. Doing this, you are bound to become more focused and more successful!